How to Make Woodworking Patterns From Pictures

wood carving image by Tom Curtis from

Things You'll Need

  • Photograph
  • Computer
  • Photo editing software
  • Printer
  • Sketch pad
  • Notepad
  • Pencil

If you can see the image in your mind, you can carve or burn the image into wood if you have some basic skills. Woodworking patterns, drawings, sketches and directions can take you from an image or drawing to the final carving or burning in wood. Pictures and photographs lend themselves well for creating one-of-a kind woodworking patterns. For relief carving woodworking projects, paint can be added to enhance the carving, giving it an almost three-dimensional look and feel.

Select a photograph or picture to create your woodworking pattern for your project.

Scan or download the photograph or picture into a computer and upload it into a photo editing program.

Crop the element, such as an animal, person or pattern, that will be the subject for your woodworking pattern. Create two files with the cropped element from the picture: image_actual and image_enlarged.

Adjust the size of the image to the actual size of the woodworking project in image_actual. If you are carving a 4-inch tall animal or animal bust, adjust the size of the image maintaining the correct proportion to the finished height and length. Print this image to be used to create the general outline in the correct realistic proportion for the woodworking pattern.

Enlarge the size of the image to a sheet of paper or a large enough image to see details and shading clearly for the woodworking pattern in image_enlarge. If you are carving a 4-inch tall animal or animal bust, adjust the size of the image maintaining the correct proportion to eight inches tall. Print this image to be used to see the detail needed to make the woodworking pattern details.

Sketch a woodworking pattern using a pencil on a sketch pad, while looking at the two images. Paper without lines or grid paper lends itself better than lined paper. Use the image_actual to create an outline for the woodworking pattern shape because it will yield the exact size and proportion needed for a proportional pattern from the picture.

Look at the image_enlarged print and determine which details and shadings you desire to include on your woodworking pattern. For example, a print of a dog might have a collar, decide if you want to include the lines on the woodworking pattern for a collar or not. More experienced wordwork artists will be able to accurately carve and burn more detailed images.

Add ordered steps and symbols necessary for more complicated woodworking patterns; simple patterns might only need one sketched image outline with little detail (for instance a simple fish outline for children or cat or dog outline for adults). Trace over the final woodworking pattern pencil lines using a medium tip marker or felt tipped black pen. Scan a copy into a computer or make a few copies on a printer for sharing and safe keeeping for the original woodworking pattern.


  • Beginners to wood burning and wood carving, whether by machine or by hand, should practice on simpler designs sticking to outlines and basic elements before attempting to master texture and patterns like animal fur. Use graphite paper to transfer your pattern from the pattern paper to the wood to begin your project.